By JOHN MARSHALL
AP Basketball Writer
Kentucky is No. 1 in the latest Associated Press Top 25, extending its season-long streak at the top of the rankings.
The Wildcats are not the only team locked into place.
For the sixth straight week, the same teams held the top seven spots in the poll, the first time that’s happened since the 1992-93 season. Though Virginia and Gonzaga swapped places two weeks ago, nothing else has changed, establishing a firm hierarchy at the top.
“Those teams at the top set the standard for the rest of the teams in the country,” said Hall of Famer Bill Walton, a college basketball analyst for ESPN and the Pac-12 Networks. “I don’t know Villanova that well, but those other teams bring it every night.”
The top portion of the poll has remained roughly the same all season, even when teams lose.
Kentucky is the only undefeated Division I team left and has been No. 1 all season. The Wildcats (27-0) were the unanimous No. 1 for the fourth straight week after receiving all 65 first-place votes from a media panel on Monday.
Virginia remained at No. 2, followed by Gonzaga, Duke, Wisconsin, Villanova and Arizona. Those teams all won, so no surprise there.
Kansas lost to No. 20 West Virginia last week, but didn’t budge on the poll; the Jayhawks were No. 8 for the fourth straight week.
Notre Dame stayed in the top 10 despite losses to Pittsburgh and Duke a few weeks ago, and moved up a spot to No. 9 this week after Utah lost and dropped to No. 13.
Northern Iowa shook up the status quo a bit by moving into the top 10 for the first time as a program, but changes at the top end of the poll have been minute for most of the season.
Unless one of those top teams comes apart over the last two weeks of the regular season, the trend is likely to continue.
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TOP-10 PANTHERS: Northern Iowa (26-2) took a big step last week by reaching No. 11, its highest ranking as a program.
The Panthers only moved up one spot this week, but it was a big one.
After extending its win streak to 15 games last week, Northern Iowa cracked the top 10 for the first time as a program. The Panthers had been the only Division school in Iowa to not have made an appearance in the AP top 10.
“Another line in the sand,” Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said on Monday. “Getting in the top 25 was a big deal when we did it. Being ranked this long has been great, I’m really proud of the guys for it. The top 10 is the top 10. It’s a pretty awesome deal.”
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RISING AND FALLING
West Virginia and VCU each had the week’s biggest climb, moving up three spots.
The Mountaineers were up to No. 20 after taking down No. 8 Kansas and No. 22 Oklahoma State. The Rams beat Saint Louis and UMass to reach No. 22.
Louisville had the biggest drop, falling five places to No. 17 after losing to Syracuse.
Butler also matched Utah’s fall, dropping four sports to No. 23 after scraping past Creighton and losing to Xavier.
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IN AND OUT
Last week, the same 25 teams filled the poll as the week before, though with a little shuffling.
This week’s top 25 had a few changes.
San Diego State was back in the poll at No. 24 after dropping out in December. The Aztecs reached No. 13 on Nov. 30, dropped out three weeks later and are back in the Top 25 after winning seven of their past eight games.
No. 25 Providence is back in the poll for the first time since being ranked 21st in the final poll of the 2003-04 season.
Oklahoma State dropped out from No. 22 after losing to Iowa State and West Virginia. Ohio State fell out from No. 24 after losing to unranked Michigan.